…When I do something for someone or put their feelings first, I do it because I want to, because it is the best thing to do and it makes us both feel better. Rather than from a place of compromise, or I have to or meet an unhealthy need within me.
As a part of my series about “How To Learn To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview John Kenny.John is a Transformational Relationship Coach, Founder of Interpersonal Relationship Coaching (IRC), Author of The P.E.O.P.L.E. Programme, Speaker, and Documentary Maker.
He has been involved in the field of personal development for over fifteen years and in that time has not only helped thousands of clients, but has also completely changed his own life.
He spent his life full of self-doubt, carrying negative beliefs from his childhood that impacted in every area — his relationships, his career and his time as an International Athlete.
It has become John’s passion to help as many people as possible to live the life that they choose. IRC is a fusion of Coaching, Counselling, Hypnotherapy, and NLP and is used to unlock the things that stop people from achieving, that holds them back, keeps them stuck and unfulfilled — to living the life that they choose.
Thank you so much for joining us! I’d love to begin by asking you to give us the backstory as to what brought you to this specific career path.
I gained an interest in psychology when I was training to become a teacher and did an introduction to counselling therapy course, but didn’t like the teaching part. I came back to it a few years later when I had some therapy of my own and then continued training as a counsellor.
In 2012 I met a coach who asked me why I was helping people to live better lives when mine still sucked! After some coaching I decided to train as a coach myself and embarked on a diploma training, then did some NLP certificates and a Hypnotherapy diploma. In 2016 I decided to combine them all into what I call Interpersonal Relationship Coaching (IRC) and the John Kenny Coaching journey began.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you hope that they might help people along their path to self-understanding or a better sense of wellbeing in their relationships?
Over the last year or so I published my book, made a documentary and started speaking in various places about IRC to try and spread the message of how it can be used and help people in their lives. I also have a coaching membership site where people can access the tools for themselves.
The concept behind IRC is called The Bicycle Affect and it explains why we think, feel and act as we do — why we see things in certain ways, the meanings we give to them and the consequences of these in our lives.
We can relate this to both ourselves and the relationships that we have to understand them at a deeper level.
Do you have a personal story that you can share with our readers about your struggles or successes along your journey of self-understanding and self-love? Was there ever a tipping point that triggered a change regarding your feelings of self acceptance?
I remember being on holiday when I was 25 and I won a raffle when out in a big venue and had to get up on stage to receive my prize. When the compere asked me my name, I got really embarrassed saying it out loud. I now realise that was because I rejected who I was at the time.
It stopped me from being the best I could be as an athlete, from having loving healthy relationships and being a success in any career field.
I was sitting on the sofa after a messy relationship breaks up and vowed to never do this again. I really started down the line of self-acceptance at this point unravelling my core beliefs and instilling new, healthy, self-caring ones.
According to a recent study cited in Cosmopolitan, in the US, only about 28 percent of men and 26 percent of women are “very satisfied with their appearance.” Could you talk about what some of the causes might be, as well as the consequences?
There are several reasons why we look at ourselves in a negative way.
Firstly, it could be down to your own self-belief and no matter what you look like, it is unlikely to ever be good enough.
Whatever you do to try and change this, your belief will still lead to self-sabotage until addressed.
We carry a perception of self compared to others, what we ‘should’ look like and where we fit into the ‘perfect’ body, the right style etc. When we don’t live up to this idea of perfection, which is the expected norm, it will impact on self-acceptance as we will never reach this level.
Sometimes it is about controlling our lives. If the world around us seems out of control or we think that we have no control over events, then we try to control what we can. One of these things is our appearance, but it can escalate into something damaging and therefore whatever we do to control this, it will never be enough.
As cheesy as it might sound to truly understand and “love yourself,” can you share with our readers a few reasons why it’s so important?
To ‘love yourself’ is more around showing yourself respect, care, compassion and understanding.
It is important to be able to do this because it can help heal any emotional wounds that you may be carrying form your past.
It will lead you to make healthier choices for your life, such as the relationships you choose and how much you are motivated to succeed.
It creates natural confidence. You no longer hold judgements about yourself which means that you don’t allow others to judge you either, take their comments personally and feel like you need to ‘fit’ in with others/situations if you don’t want to.
We break away from the maladaptive needs that we built up in childhood that lead to destructive patterns, creating healthier needs to fulfil that serve to fulfil us and create our own happiness.
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
We grow up learning how to ‘do’ relationships. What they are, what is safe and unsafe, how to connect, and in what ways. We learn our place within them and what they are supposed to feel like.
What we deserve and can and can’t have.
We also follow what is expected of us, meet someone, marry, have children, not knowing what we really want and whose values we are adhering to.
Then we just stay with what we have is we don’t know there are other choices.
Our brain also likes certainty and change can be too much to consider, the familiar is ‘safer’ even if it isn’t making us very happy.
When I talk about self-love and understanding I don’t necessarily mean blindly loving and accepting ourselves the way we are. Many times self-understanding requires us to reflect and ask ourselves the tough questions, to realize perhaps where we need to make changes in ourselves to be better not only for ourselves but our relationships. What are some of those tough questions that will cut through the safe space of comfort we like to maintain, that our readers might want to ask themselves? Can you share an example of a time that you had to reflect and realize how you needed to make changes?
Over the last fifteen years or so I have been on a constant journey of self -reflection and that will likely continue throughout my life as my subconscious still holds sway at certain times leading me to think/feel/do things I know aren’t the best for me to do.
One of the things that have really helped in relationships is to stop being a people pleaser. This not only helped me to let go of resentments of never feeling cared for but has also made the relationships more genuine. Now when I do something for someone or put their feelings first, I do it because I want to, because it is the best thing to do and it makes us both feel better. Rather than from a place of compromise, or I have to or meet an unhealthy need within me.
I have learnt how I connect with others and the limits I allowed within myself. This led me to withdraw emotionally/physically in order to protect myself and in turn hurting other people.
I realised that if my relationships were going to be deeper, more meaningful and connected, if I was going to be happier then I needed to let go of both of these behaviours.
So many don’t really know how to be alone, or are afraid of it. How important is it for us to have, and practice, that capacity to truly be with ourselves and be alone (literally or metaphorically)?
It is very important to be able to be comfortable by yourself, in your own space, doing your own thing. If not then we can feel that no one really cares for us, that we are alone, and can lead us to make choices that are led by the need to be with someone, rather than being around people that we choose to.
These ideas can come from many experiences in our lives but have led us to have certain thoughts in our own company that we find hard to manage.
How does achieving a certain level of self-understanding and self-love then affect your ability to connect with and deepen your relationships with others?
Immensely. If you have a healthy, respectful, caring, non-judgmental, compassionate relationship with you, then you will attract and allow those types of relationships with others.
If you understand why you have connected to people in a certain way in the past and what space this kept you in, you can then tell yourself you want something different from now on, something deeper and more meaningful, without the fear of what this may lead to.
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
I think as individuals we all have the ability to seek out who we truly are and why we have the relationship that we do with ourselves. I think that this needs to be encouraged as if we all did that then there would be a greater understanding of one another and fewer issues between people.
Being able to see where someone else is coming from and why they act in a certain way is very useful.
There will be less judgment and expectation lessening the pressure on someone else to be something/someone they are not.
Society needs to promote the importance of being who you truly are and going on that journey of discovery.
We are, as a species judgmental, something we learned as we evolved. If more people in society were self-confident then this need would again be lessened and those that struggled within themselves would feel more empowered and emboldened to be who they are.
What are 5 strategies that you implement to maintain your connection with and love for yourself, that our readers might learn from? Could you please give a story or example for each?
I often use self-affirming words/speech in order to connect with the positives I see in myself — I began my journey to self-acceptance with the words — John, you know you are alright. This has developed into — John, you are (expletive) awesome! I say these not just when I feel negative, but start the day with a positive to begin in a higher state. Then if I do drop, it will be from good to ok, or great to good instead of ok and downwards.
This is even more effective once you discover if you have a negative core belief and then you can turn that right on its head!
Reminding myself that when my old beliefs kick in that they are not true and what I know believe is this…
My dad would always call me stupid as a child and I took this up myself sometime in my life. Now when something goes wrong, if I do call myself stupid or an idiot, I now say no, you are not, it is just a mistake or it just hasn’t worked.
When my self-sabotaging mindset kicks in I now have a conversation with myself in order to overcome it. If I am sitting on the sofa with things to do and not doing any of them, I now ask myself why would I do this to myself, how do I want to feel and tell myself I have more respect than this for me to allow this to continue.
I used to keep a gratitude journal, where I would write things that I appreciated or was grateful for in each day and repeat them to myself — these would include grateful things about me. What I had achieved, said or done. Sometimes it would just something like, I am grateful that I am me and I appreciate who I am.
Checking in with my ‘want list’ is always a boost to my self-worth as it reminds me of the things that I am aiming for to make myself happy and fulfilled. It boosts that positive connection that I have to myself as I am allowing myself to aim for these things, strengthening my inner locus of evaluation.
A lot of my clients have real issues with writing a want list as it is something most don’t tend to consider. They can give me a ‘I don’t want list’ miles long, however, so I get them to turn this around and list them as wants.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources for self-psychology, intimacy, or relationships? What do you love about each one and how does it resonate with you?
I really love to read articles and watch videos and then research the topics in greater detail if they resonate with me or I think they will be useful to use in my life and with clients.
I don’t have a favourite or go to, but I like things I can work through myself too, such as the Motivation Manifesto by Brendon Burchard, which is about claiming your personal power.
I am reading/watching things around epigenetics at the moment and how changing our thoughts and emotions can impact on a cellular level.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? Maybe we’ll inspire our readers to start it…
This is going to sound self-promoting, but I really believe in the concept behind IRC, The Bicycle Affect. The more people that engaged in this process of understanding ‘their story’ and what they can do to write the next chapter would bring about an immense amount of positivity to the world.
Can you please give us your favourite “Life Lesson Quote” that you use to guide yourself by? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life and how our readers might learn to live by it in theirs?
I have a couple:
‘Although we can’t go back and make a brand new start, we can start now and make a brand new ending’ — Carl Bard
This guides me as it reminds me that the influences of our past is very important to understand, but we need to hold onto any regrets about it. That there are lessons we have learned to be able to create the life we want moving forward.
‘Just because I understand, it doesn’t mean I care’ — Homer Simpson.
This may sound flippant, but it is a very important lesson for us to observe. I may tell/show someone what something means to me and they may get the importance of it, but it may not be important enough to them to do anything about it. If they won’t then I know exactly where I stand with them and can work on managing it for myself without their help/input.
Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!